Monday, 26 May 2008


Ok, ok, I hold my hands up. My last post was less than inspiring and featured a pretty lack lusture plate of food to boot. I maintain that the progress of my tomato plant is quite exciting but admittedly, not the stuff thrilling blogs are made of.

May I therefore offer the following as an attempt at an apology: five recipes. Yesterday I spent all afternoon in the kitchen working my little fingers to the bone in order to win back your affection. Well that, and to cook up some tasty offerings for a Sunday late lunch.

Regular readers of this blog will already be familiar with my fondess for and frequent use of garlic, and I seem to be gravitating towards Eastern European food at the moment for exactly that reason. Lunch consisted of: lamb koftes, tabbouleh, baba ganoush and tzatziki - in short, a bit of a cultural mish-mash.

Like much of what I've been cooking lately, yesterday's food required that my pestle and mortar be very much in attendance but as said equipment is currently my favorite toy that was just fine with me. If you don't already own one I urge you to rectify that quick smart - a good sized, heavy, solid one with rough sides to aid the grinding. They can be quite expensive but a recent snoop around the kitchen section of TK Maxx turned up some pretty decent ones for not much money at all so I'd suggest having a look there.

Yields 12 koftes

800g organic minced lamb
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon ground sumac
handful finely chopped fresh parsley
handful finely choped fresh mint
handful finely chopped fresh coriander
3 big fat garlic cloves
1 rounded teaspoon harissa paste
good pinch Maldon Smoked Sea Salt (though unsmoked is fine)
freshly ground black pepper

bamboo skewers - to prevent burning, soak these in water while you prepare the meat.

Using a sharp knife, chop through the minced lamb to achieve a finer, ground texture. You can of course use a food processor to do this.

Transfer the ground meat into a mixing bowl (or you can add the following ingredients to your food processor and mix using that - I prefer the good old fashioned method of using my hands!).

Lightly toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry hot pan - keep an eye on them so that they don't burn, they won't take long - when they omit a wonderful aroma they are ready. Transfer the seeds to a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Your kitchen will smell glorious. Add the ground spices to the lamb.

Add the sumac, chopped herbs and harissa paste. Crush the garlic to a paste using the sea salt and the back of a knife. Add the to the lamb with an extra pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper.

Roll up your sleeves and mix the lamb and spices together well with your hands (or processor).

Dry off the skewers. Take a handful of the lamb mixture and push and shape this around and along the skewer, making sure it is tight. Press little indents into the meat as you go along. Repeat until all the kofte meat is used.

Preheat your grill or griddle pan until hot. I used the grill simply because the skewers were too long for my griddle, but the griddle (or barbeque) would give a lovely charred flavour. Cook until golden on all sides.

I kept aside a little ground cumin and coriander and along with the pan juices from the koftes, heated this in a little olive oil. Pour this over the koftes before serving for extra tastiness.

A fresh and cooling tzatziki makes a perfect accompaniment for deeply savoury lamb koftes. I very briefly blanch the cucumber as this enhances the flavour and colour and stops the tzatziki from being watery. Some people like to add dill but I tend to stick to mint - do whatever makes you happy!

Serves 4

1 large cucumber
2-3 rounded tablespoons greek yoghurt (or to taste)
a good handful of fresh mint (or to taste)
1 garlic clove (or to taste)
Maldon sea salt
ground black pepper

Cut the cucumber in half length ways and scrape out the wet seeds using a teaspoon. Finely shop into small pieces, or grate.

Blanch the cucumber in boiling water for a few seconds, strain and rinse under cold running water. Thoroughly squeeze out any excess liquid and place the cucumber in a bowl.

Add the yoghurt, mint and garlic (crushed to a paste with a little salt using the back of a knife) before mixing well. Season to taste.

(Yet another) one of my favorite dishes in tabbouleh. This beautifully light and fragrant salad is a joy to eat at anytime. Like most things I make, this is best made according to your personal taste, but that's not very helpful for you. So here is my adaptation of the recipe from The Moro Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark at Moro. Don't be fooled by the seemingly measley amount of bulgar wheat - it swells and with the rest of the ingredients makes a substantial salad.

Serves 4

85g bulgar wheat
300ml vegetable stock (I use Marigold Bouillon)
400g sweetest tomatoes, deseeded and cut into small cubes
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
3 small bunches fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped1 small bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped
good slug olive oil
juice of a lemon (the Moro recipe also calls for cinnamon, all spice and garlic, but I prefer to dress it just with olive oil and lemon juice to really let the freshness of the herbs and the tomatoes speak for themselves).

Rinse the bulgar wheat in cold water and place in a bowl. Prepare 300ml of stock or hot water, pour over the bulgar wheat and cover. Leave to absorb the liquid while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Drain off the bulgar wheat if necessary (it should still have a chewy bite), making sure all the excess liquid is gone.

Mix all the ingredients together and dress lightly with the oil and lemon. Check seasoning before serving.

I can not claim to be a massive fan of aubergines. I find their texture too spongey and shiver inducing, and frankly their ability to absorb oil terrifies me. For a long time I could only really bear them in a good Melanzane alla Parmigiana and avoided them otherwise. However, when I first bought the aforementioned Moro Cookbook I came across a recipe for Baba ganoush which persuaded me to give it a try, reassurred by the fact that the aubergines are charred and then mashed. And I'm glad I did try it because what results is a deep, smokey dish which I have returned to time and time again.

BABA GANOUSH from The Moro Cookbook by Sam & Sam Clark
Serves 4-6

3 large aubergines, about 750g-1kg in total
2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with 1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons tahini paste
4 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and black pepper

Pierce the skins of the aubergines to prevent them from exploding and grill whole over a hot barbeque, directly on the naked flame on a gas hob, or under the grill until the skin is charred and crispy all over and the flesh is very soft. If none of these options is available, place in a very hot oven at 220 degrees/475f/gas mark 7 for about 45-60 minutes until soft inside. Remove from the heat.

When cool enough to handle, discard the tops and peel off the skin, scraping the flesh from the back of the skin if necessary. Place the flesh and any juices in a large mixing bowl and either whisk or beat by hand until almost smooth (we like a bit of texture).

Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil, stir in and taste for seasoning. If the taste is a little strong, add few tablespoons of water.

Some toasted wholemeal pittas completed this meal which was greedily eaten partly with our hands, partly with forks, and entirely in silence punctuated only with oohs, aahs and much lip smacking.

Now, I know I alluded in my last post to baking a cake, but after the heady and exotic koftes etc, a cake seemed just... well, wrong. And so it was that I found myself pondering over ice cream recipes in a bid to find something fitting to round off the meal. I think the common garden variety of flavours are taken care of by the like of Rocombe Farm and Haagen Dazs, and so when I make ice cream myself I like it to be something I'm not likely to come across on a jaunt to the supermarket. I'm always looking for something interesting and unusual to flavour ice cream and have a tendancy to gravitate towards herbs and or spices for this.

Not having much luck and struggling to find a recipe that hit the mark, it was whilst off on a tangent that I found myself reading about caraway, and how well it works with creamy dishes. My mother uses caraway to flavour bread - but beyond that I have to say it's not spice I use.

However, the seed of an idea was planted and the resulting ice cream has a delicate and subtle flavour with a texture which is so dense and creamy it manages to be almost overwhelmingly rich and completely more-ish at the same time. This ice cream would be a brilliant accompaniment to say a tarte tatin, or some warm spiced mulled fruits. For those who are in any way sceptical - I urge you to try this. It is delicious.

A little goes a long way here but double the quantities for more people.

Serves 2-4

200ml double cream
200ml full fat milk
1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthways with the seeds scraped out
3 teaspoons caraways seeds
4 eggs yolks
88g unrefined caster sugar

Lightly toast the caraway seeds in a dry hot pan to realease their natural oils. Transfer them to a pestle and mortar and pound to break them up a little.

Place the cream, milk, caraway and vanilla pod and seeds in a pan and heat gently until just reaching boiling point.

While the milk mixture is heating, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

When the spiced milk mixture is ready, carefully strain and whisk gradually into the egg mixture until properly combined.

Return this custard mix to the heat and cook very gently, stirring with a wooden spoon. Do not let the custard overheat. When the custard has thickened and coats the back of the spoon, strain the custard and allow to cool.

Transfer to an ice cream machine and churn, or transfer to a suitable container and place in the freezer. Take the mixture out every half hour or so and beat with a fork to break up any ice crystals.


Gemma said...

This all looks delicious and not unlike the food we were munching in Santorini - back to the grindstone now but have just been browsing recipes on epicurious instead of clearing my emails! I love kofte and make variations on them all the time - must get into the habit of buying whole spices though...


Maggie said...

Love the lamb, two years ago I was obsessed with making gyro meat but I burned out on having to set up the rotisserie on the grill. Now that it's been awhile I'll get my feet wet again and make some koftes. The ice cream sounds great as well.

Kevin said...

Everything looks super tasty!

flutter said...

This all looks so incredible. I am in such a mediterranean kick right now

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